For decades, both skaters and non-skaters have wanted a free, public skatepark to accommodate Richmond’s skateboarders. When a park seems like a possibility, it seems something invariably happens to derail it. But for one city neighborhood, that possibility is very close to actually happening–they just need one person.
Both kids and adults have been skateboarding in a Forest Hill neighborhood for several years now. So many, in fact, that several residents want to build a skate park to accommodate them. While several states and municipalities are in dire financial straits, it would seem more likely than not that raising the necessary capital needed to complete such a project would prove quite difficult. Money, however, is not the issue for the residents in and around Carter Jones Park. “The money is there,” says Jen Britt, Vice President of the Friends of Carter Jones Park. “We’re all on board.”
The real issue, instead, is leadership and organization.
Skateboarders currently occupy two tennis courts in Carter Jones Park (also known as Fonticello Park). The noise and litter that have resulted because of their increased presence of late have caused several residents to become annoyed. “They have every right to complain,” says Britt of her agitated neighbors. Most of the residents, however, are not trying to displace the skaters outright–residents very much want to accommodate them. “The kids definitely need the park,” says Britt, who maintains that of the issues reported by some of her neighbors, it is “five percent of kids screwing it up for the rest.” She says that one reason for the displeasure is that the location of the skateboarders current venue “couldn’t be in a worse spot.” Not only does Carter Jones have the money, but there is a spot that Britt feels would be ideal.
Friends of Carter Jones Park has $8,000 available, the residuals of roughly $20,000 that was granted to Friends of Carter Jones Park in 2007 by Wachovia to make building modifications to an existing park structure. This money came after the local organization raised $60,000 for a fall 2006 relocation and renovation of the park’s playground. The remaining funds currently sit in an account monitored by Enrichmond, who periodically remove portions of the existing fund for the payment of organization dues.
Britt fondly recalls her husband gifting his old skateboard to a young boy, a neighbor, nearly six years ago when the boy was about nine years-old. Both his interest and presence in skateboarding, Britt believes, inspired others to frequent Carter Jones Park. She says that there are now kids who live in Ashland who deliberately travel to the park to skateboard.
She speaks of one night when a car that brought some of the visiting skateboarders to the park did not start. She and other neighbors located jumper cables and jump-started the inoperative vehicle. “They were shocked that we helped them,” says Britt of the skateboarders. “They were so sweet and appreciative.” Too often the pervading stereotype is that skaters are impolite and cavalier, as well as an annoying presence in neighborhoods. But this misapprehension rarely proves true. In this case, Britt says that the skateboarders frequenting Carter Jones Park are “polite and awesome kids,” kids that could–seemingly–have their own space devoted to skateboarding away from most of the residences quite easily.
The spot that Britt and other residents have identified as being the most appropriate location for the skatepark is a sanded area where the former Carter Jones Park playground had existed prior to the 2006 relocation. It’s roughly the same size, says Britt, as the current location used by the skateboarders among the tennis courts. The hope is that the sanded area will be paved with concrete, with, perhaps, a perimeter fence installed. Once completed, the existing equipment that the skateboarders have brought to the park could be relocated from the tennis courts to the new skateboarding area. The location would be farther from homes and would likely not bother residents as much–or at all. No estimates have been calculated for such renovations as of yet, but Britt is confident that the costs shouldn’t exceed what remains in the the group’s fund.
Because of existing rules, Friends of Carter Jones Park cannot pay contractors to perform such services directly from their existing funds. What needs to be done, says Britt, is for someone to pay for the paving and fencing, submit a receipt, and receive a reimbursement from the fund.
Both Vice-President Britt and President of the Friends of Carter Jones Park are currently busied by family and personal obligations to oversee the potential project. They are currently hoping that they can find someone to take over the reins to complete, not only the skateboard park, but to continue the maintenance and stewardship of Carter Jones Park. “Somebody needs to come and take over the funds of the group,” says Britt. “We are relinquishing our duties.”
To find replacements, Britt envisions holding a neighborhood meeting to discuss and ultimately approve any authoritative subsumption. “I love the idea,” says Britt about building a skatepark. But adds that “no one’s really involved” in making it happen. Yet.
RVANews will continue to investigate both the feasibility and limitations that surround this skate park. The next article will be a more thorough examination of the costs associated with building the skate park.
photo by Alex E. Proimos